Raising Children To See The World Beyond Our Doorstep

Amanda van Mulligen Boys

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“Mama, can we please help John?” says my six-year-old son sitting in his bed with tears in the corner of his eyes. My heart melts. John is an African boy in a charity advert that my son saw on the television earlier.

My ten-year-old comes home from school furious because his news lesson was about animal poaching. He immediately asks me what he can do to help prevent animals being killed for profit; he decides to become a World Wildlife Fund ranger. He pays for his membership with his pocket money each month.

Since my sons have been physically capable of independently climbing up on the white plastic step in our bathroom to wash their hands the words, “Don’t waste water” have been echoing in their ears. I have three boys who know to count their blessings because they can freely turn on a tap and have access to clean water when they need it. They are aware that there are countless people in the world who can’t take instant clean water for granted.

They also know that the plates heaped with nutritious food that they enjoy every day is something that eludes some other children.

When the three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on European shores and highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees my three sons donated items from their bedrooms and went shopping to fill up one of their rucksacks, so they could participate in a local drive to put together supplies for refugees arriving in our neighborhood.

They are fully aware that not everyone has the choices and the chances in life they do. Some have it better than others, and they are the fortunate ones.

Their mother is a migrant. My children are lucky enough to be raised bilingually, to be coated in a colorful mingling of cultures. They know what diversity is. They see the value of ‘different’ from close quarters. I hope as parents we have given them the foundation to never translate ‘different’ as ‘wrong’.

My children have a sharp sense of injustice. And, already, despite their world being small and their lives being sheltered from real dangers they are asking how they can help, how they can make a difference to others. I hope the weight of the world’s problems on their little shoulders doesn’t crush them.

I hope my sons keep seeing those in need and hope they won’t falter to reach out their hand to offer help when they can, even in the face of the overwhelming force of opposition to good that exists in the world today.

I hope my three boys don’t get battered by the negativity and discourse that exists around them as they mature into adults.

I hope they will be brave enough to stand up for what they believe in, stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, stand up and be on the right side of history.

I hope they continue to ask difficult questions.

I hope they think for themselves.

I hope they are prepared to challenge the status quo.

I hope they learn to trust unconditionally in their beautiful, sensitive instinct.

I hope they unlock their potential and add color and smiles to the world around them.

I hope they know they already have the power to be superheroes, simply by honoring the nature of who they are.

To continue teaching my children that there is a whole world beyond our doorstep matters to me, so that they think beyond the boundaries of the ethos of ‘my country’ and embrace the idea of ‘our world’.

I hope they never stop asking what they can do to make that world a better place for someone else.


About the Author

Amanda van Mulligen

I am a British expat, living in the Netherlands where I divide my time between writing, trying to Britify my three Dutch children and get to grips with the quirks of the locals. I write about raising highly sensitive children at .

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